Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan was born in a Brahmin family in Tiruttani in Madras Presidency. His father was Sarvepalli Veeraswami and mother was Sitamma. His father was a subordinate revenue official who served a local zamindar (landlord).
He received his primary education from K.V High School at Thiruttani. Later on in 1896 he moved to Hermansburg Evangelical Lutheran Mission School located in Tirupati.
Radhakrishnan was a bright student and received many scholarships throughout his academic life.
Initially he took admission in Voorhees College in Vellore but later switched to Madras Christian College. He was 17 years old at that time. He graduated from the college in 1906 with a master's degree in Philosophy and was one of the college’s most distinguished alumni.
Radhakrishnan was just 16 years old when he was married to Sivakamu, his distant cousin. It was an arranged marriage traditionally organized. He had five daughters and a son named Sarvepalli Gopal. Former Indian cricketer VVS Laxman is Dr. Radhakrishnan’s great grand nephew.
The story behind Teachers' Day
His birthday is celebrated as Teachers' Day in India. There is an incident associated with it about how Teachers’ Day came into existence.
When Dr. Radhakrishnan became the President of India, some of his students and friends wanted to celebrate his birthday. Thus, they went up to him and requested for it but Dr. Radhakrishnan with utmost humility suggested them to celebrate the day as Teachers’ Day instead on his birthday every year.
His association with UNESCO
After the independence of India in 1947, Dr. Radhakrishnan represented India at UNESCO from1946 to 1952. Then he became the ambassador of India to the Soviet Union from 1949 to 1952.
His other achievements:
• He served as a professor at Mysore (1918–21) and Calcutta (1921–31; 1937–41) universities and taught Philosophy.
• Also, he was the vice-chancellor of Andhra University from 1931to 36.
• He was also appointed as the professor of Eastern religions and ethics at the University of Oxford in England from 1936 to 52.
• He was the vice-chancellor of Benares Hindu University from 1939 to 48.
• Also, from 1953 to 1962, he was the chancellor of the University of Delhi.
His philosophy of the Advaita Vedanta
Radhakrishnan was a true preacher of the Advaita Vedanta philosophy. The latter is a Hindu philosophy and religious practice for spirituality. Advaita is a Sanskrit word that means ‘Not-two’ or ‘No-Second’. As per this philosophy the atman or true self is the same as Brahman or the highest reality.
His charitable causes
He formed a trust named Krishnarpan Charity Trust along with Ghanshyam Das Birla and other social workers before India’s independence. Later, the trust has founded the BK Birla Institute of Engineering and Technology, Pilani, in 2007.
His written works
Following are Radhakrishnan’s written works:
• Indian Philosophy, 2 vol. (1923–27)
• The Philosophy of the Upanishads (1924)
• An Idealist View of Life (1932)
• Eastern Religions and Western Thought (1939), and East and West
• Some Reflections (1955)